The Beginning of Ramadan
It is obligatory for every Mukallaf, able person to fast the month of Ramadan. It is obligatory upon such people to fast upon seeing the crescent moon even if it’s been sighted by a single trustworthy person. According to the mu’tamad position of the madhab it is valid to be sighted by a single upright Muslim be it male or female.
If sighting the moon occurs validly then it becomes obligatory across and upon all the Muslims to fast. Even if a trustworthy and upright person across the other side of the world spots the moon it becomes wajib for everyone else to fast. People have never acted upon this opinion as they go according to their country etc. Also it wasn’t easy to get the message across to everyone. Nowadays it’s problematic as some people have started to pick and choose as to which country to follow. In reality if the moon has been sighted and it’s a valid sighting then every Muslim should fast.
If the person follows the sighting in Saudi Arabia for example, then that is also good. But if a person wants to stick to when his congregation begins fasting then that is preferred as being with the congregation is more important than fasting alone.
When it comes to witnesses, for every month it is necessary for 2 upright males to sight the moon. Ramadan was made the only exception because Ramadan is a month that requires us to fast, it’s an important month hence as per the Hanabila we take extra caution for the sake of the sanctity of the month. Hadith of Abdullah Ibn Abbas of Bedouin sighting the moon. Hadith of Abdullah Ibn Umar sighting the moon. This shows that just one witness is enough to begin fasting the month of Ramadan.
The second way of knowing Ramadan has entered is the completion of the month of Shaban. Every month of the Hijri calendar is either 29 or 30 days. It cannot be 27 or 31 days. If we don’t see the moon even after the 29 of Shaban, we add another day and then start fasting from after that.
The third way of knowing Ramadan has entered, and this is a position held only by the Hanabila (mufradat) is that if there is something preventing the sighting of the moon on the night of the 30 of Shaban. The Night of the 30 of Shaban means the evening of the 29. The night is mentioned first. The next day could be the last day of Shaban or the first day of Ramadan which is why it’s called Yawm al-Shak. Clouds or mountains which prevent us from viewing the moon then fasting in such a case is not obligatory and we complete the Shaban month. The Hanabila say that this day has to be fasted. Abdullah Ibn Umar رضي الله عنه used to fast on such days just to be on the safe side and out of precaution of missing on such a great act of worship. Although the hadith says complete 30 days, the Hanabila say that it holds only when the sighting of the moon is applicable. When it’s not possible then we go by the action of Abdullah Ibn Umar for he is the very person who narrated this hadith. The person who is narrating the hadith is fully aware of the context of the hadith. His understanding is given priority, and this is a principle of Usul.
If for some reason it was possible to spot the moon during the day then the following day is taken to be the first day of Ramadan.
A few scenarios where a person becomes liable for fasting during the day include, where a boy reaches age of puberty at Dhuhr time. Before he had an excuse of not fasting but after attaining puberty it is upon him to fast. Why? Because the reason or excuse because of which he didn’t fast is no longer present or valid. This is to maintain the sanctity of the Sacred Month. We need to give our ibadah the station and respect it deserves as per what is taught by the Shariah based on knowledge and taqwa. In this case and all others which follow, the person keeps their fast for the rest of the day and then repeats the fast of that day after Ramadan.
Likewise for a woman who finishes her menstrual cycle which completes during the day as the reason is now absent or a traveller who completes his journey and reaches home. If it is too much of a hardship then even in normal situations they are allowed to break their fast.
Whoever breaks the fast due to old age or chronic illness (one that we don’t expect someone to recover from) feeds one poor person each day. The qaidah of the madhab is that the quantity is a mudd of food (0.51 litres) or half a sā (approx. 1.018 Kilograms or 2.04 litres) of any other kind of food. The point is to feed someone for the number of days which have been missed.
It is recommended Sunnah for someone who is sick (sicknesses which brings hardship) to break the fast and for the one who is travelling. Some scholars say that it is better to fast while travelling but the Hanabila say it’s better to break the fast because the Prophet ﷺ said, “Take the concessions which Allah has given you.” This is an option given, it’s not a must to break the fast.
If a pregnant woman or a breastfeeding woman breaks her fast fearing harm then she makes up for it. The principle is that a pregnant or a breast-feeding woman is no different from any other person. There is no automatic excuse from fasting. What’s obligatory upon others is also obligatory upon them. IF they are incapable of fasting or fears for herself or fears severe hardship in fasting or if she fasts then she will harm herself then she takes the ruling of the one who is ill. She breaks her fast and repeats them after Ramadan. She doesn’t feed the poor because she isn’t permanently ill and rather this is a short-term condition. This is the ruling of the vast majority woman. A minority opinion says that the woman simply feeds, and this is incorrect as many women are capable of fasting. The ruling depends case to case.
However, if she doesn’t fear for herself and can keep the fast for the whole day but by doing so it may bring harm to the child then she doesn’t just break her fast. She breaks her fast as she needs to look after the child and not doing so would cause it harm. This is determined by valid medical advice. Because the excuse has nothing to do with her but rather the child then as per the Hanabila and a few other scholars she breaks the fast and the male who is responsible for the child has to feed (one mudd (0.51 litres) of wheat or half a sā (2.04 litres / 1.081 kgs)) one person a day for the fast that’s missed.
If someone becomes unconscious or becomes insane then their fast is not valid as the intention to fast itself is not valid. The one who is unconscious makes up for the fast. As for the one who is insane he doesn’t have to make it up as he isn’t mukallaf.
Intention to Fast
An obligatory fast is not valid except with a specific intention during some part of the night by believing himself to be fasting for Ramadan, making it up, performing a vowed fast or a fast that is communal obligation.
What is making an intention?
An indication or a thought that crosses your mind at any part during the night that you’re fasting the next day is a valid intention. There is no need for a specific intention or dua just before Fajr adhan.
As for involuntary fasts then it’s not necessary to make the intention before Fajr. As long as something which invalidates the fast is not present or has not been present then the intention for it can be made at any point of time even if it’s an hour before Maghrib and the fast will still be valid. The reward ofcourse shall differ as the one who fasted the whole day and the one who started later our different.
Invalidators of the Fast
Whoever inserts/injects anything into the body or a body cavity like the brain, throat, the inside of the vagina or similar things that lead to the stomach from any location other than the urethra invalidates the fast. If a liquid or something reaches the throat but not the stomach, then the Hanabila hold that the fast is invalidated for it is near impossible to know if it’s gone further and reaches the stomach or not. Entering anything from the urethra won’t reach the stomach hence it doesn’t matter.
Some of the scholars say since this is unrelated to food and drink this doesn’t break the fast and this is just qiyas. From those who hold this position is Ibn Taymiyyah who says that Allah has made fasting invalidated only through food or drink or it’s likes. These things even if it reaches the stomach doesn’t break the fast. The vast majority of the scholars disagree with this and say it invalidates the fast as the Prophet ﷺ showed us that it’s not just the food and drink that breaks the fast. “Exaggerate in rinsing the mouth unless you’re fasting.”
If a person swallows phlegm which you could have spat out, then this breaks the fast. Saliva is excused as that is second nature and because of its common occurrence. Sometimes spitting out phlegm is not possible and hence the scholars say that it’s closer to saliva and can also be excused. What’s better is to avoid swallowing phlegm as and when possible.
The asl is that nothing breaks the fast except for what the Shariah says breaks the fast. So, for such grey areas there is some scope and flexibility where the scholars say that the fast is complete and valid.
If someone induces vomiting (this is based on the hadith about vomiting whose authenticity has been disputed) then it invalidates the fast and it is to be repeated. If the vomiting has occurred naturally then the person resumes and completes the fast.
If someone masturbates (cause to ejaculate semen) either by using the hands or any other means breaks the fast. Masturbation according to the Hanabila and the majority of the fuqaha is Haram unless done by a spouse to the other. Masturbating by itself doesn’t break the fast but the ejaculation of semen does. What was a minor sin (masturbation) now becomes a major sin. This requires a person to complete the fast for the rest of the day and make it up after Ramadan. But as per the Hanabila even pre-seminal fluid (madhī) breaks the fast. Sheikhul Islam opposes this and says that even though this is an indication of desire, but it is only the ejaculation which breaks the fast. Just a desire doesn’t break the fast unless semen is emitted.
If a person looks repeatedly at a woman and ejaculates, then this invalidates their fast. If you look once and ejaculate, then it doesn’t break the fast as the first look isn’t wrong. In this case manī breaks the fast and not madhī.
Strictly speaking what breaks the fast is sexual intercourse or ejaculation. But scholars say that if kissing, excessive touching, fondling, snogging etc may lead to intercourse or such then it becomes impermissible to do so. For such a person even a kiss is Haram. This isn’t the kiss of mercy, thanking etc but rather that of foreplay and it’s likes.
If a person has the firm intention to break their fast then this invalidates their fast. It’s not the desire of wishing to do something but rather resolving to do it that breaks the fast. Fasting is fasting because of the intention.
If a person has hijama done on him or the one doing it, this invalidates the fast of them both as per the Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ. Why does the fast of the one cupping becomes invalidated? This is ta’abbudi. It’s purely a matter of worship so what the Prophet ﷺ has said about it we take it without question. This opinion is from the mufradat of the Hanabila. The other 3 madhaib say that cupping doesn’t invalidate the fast. Donating blood doesn’t break the fast but cupping does even if you donate half the blood in your body. We don’t do qiyas in such matters without delving in its reasoning. We go by the text purely. Camel meat breaks the wudhu but eating pig meat doesn’t. Touching a non mahram without desire but with a barrier like a glove doesn’t break the wudhu but touching the wife with desire breaks the wudhu directly as per the Hanabila based on direct contact. We aren’t looking at Halal or Haram but rather what the Shariah has made an invalidator.
All of these things break the fast only if you do them intentionally, out of choice, and whilst remembering your state of fasting.
For something to break the fast we need to be sure that it’s reached the throat or the stomach. Ibn Muflih explicitly states this principle for the fast to be invalidated. Most Fiqh councils today allow eye drops, nose drops, ear drops, inhalers etc because we aren’t sure that it reaches the stomach. That being said the quantity of water that goes in our throats during wudhu or ghusl seems to be more than that of these drops and that is allowed to pass. But those things that come through the mouth are problematic since that is the prime entrance for the stomach. That’s why the scholars opine that if a person can delay the inhaler till after Maghrib then that’s better but if not then the fast is to be broken out of need and the fast repeated later after Ramadan. Other scholars say that it doesn’t break the fast as it’s not food or drink and the quantity that may reach the stomach is negligible. According to the madhab it breaks the fast.
For the one who has just sexual thoughts which causes him to ejaculate without masturbation then this doesn’t break the fast.
For the one who rinsed his mouth or nose during wudhu and ghusl, it doesn’t break the fast even if there is exaggeration in it and this is the position of the Madhab.
Whoever has intercourse in the daytime of Ramadan without overwhelming need (dire/medical need it) for it and it’s like must make up for that fast and pay an expiration for it. The fast needs to be completed for that day. The expiation is to free a slave but if it’s not available as in our case today then the person is to fast for 2 consecutive months or 60 days. It refers to 60 people altogether or 60 meals, for the one who cannot fast 60 days.
The term مطْلَقًا means that making up for it and the expiation has to be given irrespective of whether the act was done out of forgetfulness, ignorance etc or not based on the Hadith of the man who came to the Prophet ﷺ telling him about having intercourse while fasting. Other fuqaha allow forgetfulness but the madhab is very strict on the matter.
This is that illness where if a person doesn’t ejaculate then it would bring severe harm to his testicles. The Hanabila say that if this can be overcome through masturbating then that should be done, or the wife masturbating him till the semen is released but intercourse would remain impermissible. Likewise, with a woman on her periods. The husband is allowed to have intercourse with her in such a state of illness/desire as long as no other option is available at all.
As for the woman, she also has to pay the expiation and fast for 2 consecutive months unless she is asleep, and the husband has intercourse with her, or she’s forced, or ignorance or forgetfulness. She repeats the fast even if she doesn’t have to pay the expiation for that day. Even if she doesn’t know about the expiation but knows that intercourse breaks the fast, she is still liable to pay for the expiation. If the fasting for the expiation has begun from the beginning of the month then even if both the months are 29 days each which totals to 58 fasts, the expiation is valid. But if the fasting has begun from the middle of the month then the person needs to fast for 60 consecutive days. If a person is unable to fast 2 consecutive months, then they can feed 60 poor people in that month. If all of the above cannot be done, then the obligation and ruling no longer holds as per the madhab.
Gathering saliva to swallow it is makruh but since it’s part of the mouth it doesn’t break the fast. It’s disliked tasting food unless there is an absolute need for it. Something is no longer makruh if there is a genuine need not necessarily at the level of life and death. Tasting doesn’t mean eating it, but just tasting it with the tongue. Chewing on gum that doesn’t dissolve aka no flavour are makruh. If someone is to find a taste in their throat from any of the above, then the fast is invalid.
It’s also disliked someone to kiss or it’s likes of the person’s desires are moved. If he believes this could lead to intercourse or ejaculation, then this kind of kissing or touching becomes Haram upon him.
It is prohibited to chew on gum that dissolves such that it’s pieces will reach the throat. Also prohibited is lying, backbiting, cursing, carrying tales etc are prohibited with a heavy emphasis.
It’s recommended to hasten towards breaking ones fast and delaying ones suhoor. The hastening and delaying happens as long as one is sure that the time of Maghrib and Fajr respectively has entered. When the companions like Zaid Ibn Thabit was asked about what this delay meant, they said it was enough time to recite 50 ayat of the Quran.
It is also recommended to recite the dua during iftar.
It is recommended to make up your missed fasts immediately. There is 11 months’ time to make up for missed fasts till the next Ramadan and making them up in this time is obligatory, but it is highly recommended to make them up as soon as possible and also consecutively. Some say that if you miss the fasts consecutively you make them up consecutively. This is a recommendation and not an obligation.
It’s Haram to delay ones fast till the next Ramadan without a valid excuse. If a person does delay the fasts like this then the person must make up those missed fasts after Ramadan but now they also must feed a number of poor people equivalent to the fasts missed. This was the fatwa of many of the companions and the position held by Imam Ahmed.
If a person dies and he hasn’t fasted a fast of Ramadan without a valid reason, then there is no making up for Ramadan. Rather the family must feed a poor person for the number of days that have been missed and the money to facilitate this comes from the wealth of the deceased. But if there was a valid reason due to which the fast could not be made up then nothing is required.
The only making up is for a vow (nadhr). Their relatives can fast the days of the vow on behalf of the deceased. This is the understanding of Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud and other scholars. This was also stated by Ibn Umar as is recorded in the Muwatta of Imam Malik where no one prays on behalf of another person and fasting takes the same ruling. Making up for the fast is allowed only in the case of a vow because it has explicit evidences backing it up. This is an exception to the general rule for physical acts like salah and fasting for which is that we don’t make up. Things like zakat etc are made up for by the family of the deceased.
If a person has passed away and had made a vow, then it is recommended for his inheritor to make it up on his behalf. If, however the deceased person has left money then that should be used to complete the vow, for this vow is a debt to Allah. It is not obligatory for the inheritor to do the acts themselves, rather someone else can be appointed to do it in their stead.
It is recommended to fast the White Days of the month which are the 13, 14 and 15 of the lunar month. The exception to this are the months of Ramadan and Dhul Hijjah (prohibited to fast the 13th day (ayyam at-tashreeq)). The Sunnah is to fast any 3 days a month as this is what he taught the sahaba but it is even more recommended if these 3 days are the 3 white days. It is called the white days because the moon is at its fullest in these 3 days.
It is recommended to fast Thursdays and Mondays and the 6 days of Shawwal.
Abu Aiyub Al-Ansari narrated that The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
مَنْ صَامَ رَمَضَانَ, ثُمَّ أَتْبَعَهُ سِتًّا مِنْ شَوَّالٍ كَانَ كَصِيَامِ اَلدَّهْرِ
“Whoever fasts during the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of Shawwal will be (rewarded) as if he had fasted the entire year.” [Muslim] The days are generally multiplied by 10. We shouldn’t go overboard with calculation because it is not about the Mathematics involved. It is just to give us an idea of what can be gained. We do good deeds to gain the pleasure and mercy of Allah and not with a businessman’s mindset.
It is recommended to fast Allah’s month, Muharram. It is more recommended to fast the 10th of Muharram – The Day of Ashura and the 9th day. It is further recommended to fast the 9 days of Dhul Hijjah. From the 9 days, the Day of Arafat is highly recommended which is the 9th Day of Dhul Hijjah. The ones at Hajj don’t fast on the Day of Arafat.
The best of fasting is to fast one day and to leave it one day. This is the fasting of Prophet Daood which was recommended by the Prophet ﷺ to Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn al-Aas when he wanted to fast for more time.
It is makruh (disliked) to single out the following day or months to fast which include Rajab, Fridays, Saturday, the Day of Doubt – the 30th Day of Shaban when there is something affecting visibility.
There is nothing special for the month of Rajab for us to single it out to fast. Imam Ahmad says that if a person is used to fasting the weekly fasts, then he continues fasting in Rajab but to start therein by singling it out is disliked. All the 6 Imams of Hadith have recorded the prohibition to single out the Day of Friday to fast. As per the madhab even singling out Saturday to fast is makruh based on some ahadith reported by Tirmidhi and others and there is a difference of opinion of the scholars on this. Imam Malik holds that these ahadith are false whereas Imam Abu Dawud deems these ahadith to be abrogated (mansukh). The relied upon position in the Hanbali madhab takes it to be makruh. Fasting Friday and Saturday or Thursday and Friday together is allowed and this is explicitly mentioned by Ibn Qudamah in al-Kaafi. Making up the fasts is allowed on these days because making up of those missed fasts is obligatory. Likewise fasting is allowed when Friday or Saturday falls in one of the White Days.
It is disliked to fast on the day of the celebration of the disbelievers. It is also disliked to fast a day or two before Ramadan unless there is a specific need like making up missed fasts or it is the habit of the person to fast such days anyways. This has been explicitly stated by the Prophet.
It is Haram (prohibited) to fast the Days of Eid irrespective of what your reason and such fasts are invalid. It is Haram to fast the Days if Tashriq which are the 11, 12, and 13 of Dhul Hijjah as per the direct hadith narrated on the authority of Aisha. It is only allowed for those who are making a blood sacrifice for performing Umrah and then Hajj Tamattu or Hajj Qiran.
It is Haram to stop or interrupt an obligatory (fardh) act which allows for multiple chances within its valid time. A person stands to pray Dhuhr but then thinks that there is still a lot of time left for Asr and decides to break the salah. This is completely impermissible as a person has already entered into the state of doing the obligatory act and it needs to be completed. Like making up for a day of Ramadan, it cannot be broken in the middle because making it up puts it at the level of fardh. But if it is a fast of Monday or its likes then it can be left midway.
If the act of worship is a recommended act (Nafl) then it is permissible to break it for a valid reason. Breaking without a valid reason isn’t at the level of haram, but it is makruh.
Spiritual Retreat – I’tikaf
I’tikaf is a recommended action (Sunnah). It is not valid from a person who is obliged to attend the congregational salah unless he is in a masjid where the salah is held. The jama’a is wajib on the male. How then is it possible that a person stays in the masjid and there is no jama’a for 10 days? I’tikaf doesn’t need to be for 10 days, rather it can be even for an hour or so. The Hanabila and the Shafi’yyah say that it is recommended (mustahab) that if someone is going to spend a decent time in the masjid, they then intend to do i’tikaf. What is considered a decent amount of time as per the urf is what is ok to intend I’tikaf in.
A condition for I’tikaf is that one is free from anything that requires performing the purificatory bath like being in a state of janabah, menstruation or lochia etc.
If someone vows to perform I’tikaf or prayer in a masjid in other than the 3 Masajid, then one can perform the retreat in that or any other masjid as all the masajid are equal and the vow is deemed complete. But if it is one of the 3 Masajid, then the vow has to be completed in that said Masjid or in one greater than it. The most superior masjid is Masjid al-Haram in Makkah followed by Masjid Nabawi and then Masjid al-Aqsa.
One does not exit from the I’tikaf that one has vowed to perform consecutively except for something unavoidable like using the toilet, getting food etc. For one who has made a vow, the I’tikaf becomes wajib instead of just Sunnah. Such a person does not visit the sick, nor attend a funeral unless it was stipulated though such a stipulation is not valid. The person does not exit for the sake of trade or whenever he so desires without a dire necessity.
Intercourse is not permitted as it spoils the i’tikaf. So does ejaculation from foreplay or masturbation. An expiation for an oath that is broken for someone who spoils the I’tikaf which a person had vowed to complete.
A person who is performing the sunnah I’tikaf can leave the Masjid as and when required like a job, exam, appointments or its likes. The person can return to the masjid when the work is done.
It is recommended to busy oneself with acts of worship and to avoid whatever does not concern one one like debating, arguing, backbiting and frequent speech. I’tikaf is not a time for socializing but rather a time for secluding oneself with Allah. Try and vary your good deeds and have a plan on what you want to do and achieve.
International Islamic Univeristy, Malaysia
9 Ramadan 1439